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US military spacecraft shrouded in secrecy

The X-37B unmanned spacecraft, a secretive US military project, landed on December 3rd at a California airbase after a successful seven month flight.

The US Air Force claimed the flight was a test flight, used to measure the effectiveness of the craft. However, all of its activities while in orbit were classified. Officials explained the mission objectives as; guidance, navigation, control, thermal, autonomous operation, re-entry and landing tests.

Due to the vague nature of the flight description, some have come to believe the craft was designed for spying or other military purposes; possibly leading to the militarization of space.

Robert Bowman, the former director for Advanced Space Programs Development at the US Air Force said, the program is secret so potential adversaries are not aware of the exact nature of the program.

It’s pretty easy to figure out what the possibilities are,” Bowman said, addressing the nature of the X-37B mission. “The important thing is quick response. This is a vehicle that can get launched in a hurry, as opposed to something like the space shuttle.”

The vehicle can launch quickly and respond quickly, unlike current spacecrafts which can take months of turn around. The X-37B operates more like an airplane, he explained.

Many in the US military industrial complex have conceived of a space based bomber, including the ability to carry nuclear weapons, commented Bowman.

That has been against our policy and I hope it still is, but it’s a physical possibility,” he said.

Loopholes in international agreements and laws governing outer space leave open many possibilities, including the weaponizing of space.

There are other benign things that can be done with this; reconnaissance. It there is a spot on the Earth that you want to look at quickly, you can launch this and fairly rapidly get it over any spot on Earth,” said Bowman.